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FAMILY CARE MEETINGS A collaborative approach in addressing long term child protection. Marianne Richards Care & Protection Coordinator Conferencing Unit Youth Court of South Australia. Conferencing Unit. Family Conference. Care & Protection. Conferencing Unit. Youth Court Registry.

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A collaborative approach

in addressing long term

child protection

Marianne Richards

Care & Protection Coordinator

Conferencing Unit

Youth Court of South Australia


Conferencing Unit

Family Conference

Care & Protection

Conferencing Unit

Youth Court



Family Care Meetings

Children’s Protection Act 1993

Section 28

“The purpose of a family care meeting is to provide a proper opportunity for a child’s family, in conjunction with a Care and Protection Coordinator –

(a) to make informed decisions as to the arrangements for best securing the care and protection of the child; and

(b) To review those arrangements from time to time”

conferencing unit statistics
Conferencing Unit Statistics
  • Conferencing Unit (care and protection)
    • Referrals
    • Outcomes
    • Timeline

Family Care Meetings

Family Decision Making Model

  • Family care meetings are based on the belief
  • that:
    • Families, and extended families should be involved in the decision making process, because they know what they are capable of achieving.
    • Families have strengths to contribute
    • The family knows the best way of dealing with the cultural values and beliefs in relation to the child.
  • Encouraging responsibility
  • Building on strengths
  • Participation
  • Inclusion
family care meetings jurisdiction
Family Care MeetingsJurisdiction

The Care and Protection commenced operations in 1995 and deals with child protection matters referred to it by Families SA and the Youth Court.

Care and Protection convenes Family Care Meetings, to provide families with the opportunity to come up with their own plan to ensure the safety and protection of the children concerned.


Family Care Meetings

Restorative Practices

  • Individuals and families make important
  • decisions about issues that effect their lives
  • Professionals facilitate rather than impose
  • Government does things WITH people rather
  • than TO them or FOR them

Family Care Meetings


  • Diverting from court, before court applications
  • Reducing number of hearings
  • Reducing number of contested applications
  • Reducing number of orders made
  • Reducing the number of children removed from
  • their family home

Families SA

  • Receive notifications of abuse,
  • Investigate and assess, confirm abuse
  • Removal of children at risk
  • Refer for Family Care Meeting
  • Apply to Youth Court for Care & Protection


  • Place children in foster (alternative) care
  • Refer families to support services
  • Provide financial assistance

Families SA / Intensive Placement Prevention

Background to the initiation/ implementation of Intensive Placement Prevention model

  • HOW
  • WHY

Intensive Prevention Placement


  • What it is?
  • Intensive provision of both therapeutic and
  • cognitive interventions and practical support
  • within the family home
  • Delivered by non government service providers in
  • partnership with Families SA.
  • May include a Families SA Anti-Poverty worker
  • (financial counselling and assistance).
  • Home based service provision.

Referral agencies for Intensive Placement Program

  • Delivered by non government service

providers in partnership with Families SA.

  • Anglicare – Elizabeth & Salisbury, Adelaide
  • Centacare – Port Augusta
  • Available in 4 metropolitan and 2 country locations
  • Development of a Case Plan in partnership with the family, utilising a strengths based approach.
  • Preparation
  • The meeting
  • Follow up
preparation coordinator s responsibilities under the act
Preparation: Coordinator's responsibilities under the Act

Before the meeting

  • Set date and place in consultation with family
  • Decide who to invite
  • Appoint child advocate
  • Invite a Cultural Representative if required
  • Ensure sufficient information is provided to participants
family participants
Family participants
  • This may include extended family members i.e. aunt, uncle, grandparent
  • Support people – close friend, advocate, agency.
  • Coordinator will discuss the role of each invited participant will have within the meeting.
child advocate
Child Advocate

S 29 (2). The coordinator must arrange for a suitable person to act as advocate for the child at the meeting, unless satisfied that the child has made an independent decision to waive his or her right to be so represented.

aboriginal torres strait islander cultural representative
Aboriginal & Torres Strait IslanderCultural representative
  • Role: to advise the coordinator and meeting participants about cultural matters
    • About process of the meeting
    • About decisions for the child
  • Nominated by a gazetted ATSI organisation
  • Aboriginal Child Placement Principle
  • Duty to maintain confidentiality regarding personal information obtained at a meeting
  • Reports of Family Care Meetings not to be published
  • Evidence of anything said at a Family Care Meeting to remain confidential (only exception re: child protection or criminal matters).
  • Notes not to be taken from the meeting
coordinator s role during meeting
Coordinator's role during meeting
  • Facilitate process so that everyone at the meeting who wants to have a say can do so, and that everyone listens and behaves in a respectful way
  • Make sure everyone understands and has sufficient information to make decisions
  • Invite and ask questions of clarification
  • Keep everyone on track, talking about the child’s future needs
  • Manage safety issues
  • Remind about confidentiality

Information Sharing

  • The Care and Protection coordinator facilitates the meeting and follows the guidelines in the Children's Protection Act.
  • Then family hear about the care and protection concerns in relation to their child/children
  • The child or child advocate represents the child’s view (or if not verbal, speaks from the best interest perspective)
family time
Family Time
  • After everyone has heard about the concerns, and the child’s needs and views, there is time for the family to talk privately
  • Family members have the chance to talk with each other about what should happen to keep the child safe.
  • The coordinator will have given the family some ideas about what needs to be considered when developing a plan.
  • What help does the child or family need?
  • What needs to happen to address the care and protection concerns?
  • What arrangements can family members make to help keep the child safe?
  • Role of IPP caseworker in supporting the family to achieve the plan put in place
  • What undertakings will Families SA and IPP make to support the arrangements?
  • How long will these arrangements last?
  • When will the arrangements be reviewed?
what happens after a meeting
What happens after a meeting?
  • If there is an agreed plan then everyone will try to put into action their part of the plan
  • If the plan is not working well or needs change, family members or Families SA can ask for an early review meeting
  • If the plan is not put into action and the child is still at risk Families SA may apply for a Care and Protection Order
  • A review report will be requested from Families SA and IPP
  • Early review may be requested if required due to the plan breaking down or change in family circumstances
  • An early review can be requested by either Families SA, IPP or the family
case study
Case Study
  • Mother - Janice
  • Two daughters
    • – Amy (9 years)
    • – Lucy (6 years)
  • Child Protection History – from 2003.
intervention timeline
Intervention Timeline

Significant child protection history dating back to 2003

FCMR- final April 11

FCMR Mar 11

FCRM Feb 11

FCM Dec 10

CP received referral

Nov 10

Agencies involved: Families SA, IPP, Centacare counselling (ongoing)

case scenario future directions
Case Scenario Future Directions
  • Mother’s commitment to maintaining a safe and hygienic home for her children.
  • Children able to form relationships with other children at school and invite them into their home for play.
  • Improvement in their scholastic records and school attendance.
  • Mother has initiated further improvements in her home such as painting all the rooms in the house and making new curtains and bedding etc for home.
  • Mother has established new ‘safe’ relationship, who interacts appropriately with both herself and her children.
case scenario feedback mother
Case Scenario Feedback - Mother
  • Respectful attitude of all persons involved in the process- felt they were there to help- rather than put you down.
  • Issues discussed in language that was easy to understand.
  • Gave family opportunity to have input into the plans being made throughout the meeting.
  • Simple, clear goals- easy to understand.
  • Working on one issue at a time- issues became not so overwhelming.
  • Mother has since been able to set her own goals and see a positive outcome (painted all the rooms in her home, with new curtains and furniture)
  • IPP caseworker- felt they knew what they were talking about and they gave her the confidence to believe that she could do it (succeed).
lessons learnt
Lessons Learnt
  • Professional respect between agency
  • workers
  • Importance of communication and
  • information sharing toward a common goal
  • Not re-inventing the wheel – using knowledge
  • and practice wisdom of other agency
  • professionals
where to now
Where to now?
  • Development of clear operational procedures
  • Continue to engage with Families SA with regard to earlier referrals
  • Services to support families
Conferencing Unit

Care & Protection

75 Wright Street

Adelaide, South Australia 5000

+61 8 8204 0594